My Anniversary Blog: The Deep Wells of Hearing Loss

It’s my anniversary!   On August 15, 2011, following an invitation to join the editorial team at HearingHealthMatters.org,  I posted my first blog as the Better Hearing Consumer  – and I haven’t stopped writing since.  When people ask how I think of something to write week after week, my answer is that hearing loss touches every corner of our lives and so there is always something to write about. 

To celebrate, in this 53rd blog I am including three different poems from past posts.  While not great poetry, I admit, they look down into some of the deep emotional wells of people with hearing loss:   Anger & Frustration, Acceptance & Gratitude, and the Despair That Leads to Hope.

 

If I Could Move Your Lips For You

If I could move your lips for you, I would.

We’ve been friends forever and I can read your emotions, easily.

But reading your words is tough because your lips don’t move,

Not much.

Friendships with new people, wonderful people, have not flourished

Under the strain of my communication challenges, but

You are my friend – and I want to keep talking with you forever.

And today, meeting in Starbucks, I’m in trouble

As I watch, listen and interpret your lips,

Shaping words for me to see and breathing sounds for me to hear.

Your lips are smiling – but your eyes are not.

Your fingers drum the café tabletop,

Competing with the noise of a hundred coffee cups.

We could talk in a quiet, well-lit place,

But we love the atmosphere here,

And the lower lighting flatters our age.

So whose fault is it – yours, mine or ours –

When for the ten thousandth time

I must ask you to repeat yourself?

I sense your invisible eye-rolling and sighing.

Immediately, I’m both apologetic and resentful

And I want to shout:

OK, I’m sorry to ask you to repeat – again,

But maybe if you moved your damn lips!?

I do everything I can to make it easier,

This café isn’t that loud, or that dark.

We’re sitting close and I’m wired for sound.

The only thing I can’t control is the way you move your lips.

I hate to say it, but you missed the “giving good lip” gene.

You’re just not good at it.

Sometimes I want to reach over and grab a lip in each hand and move them,

So that you can feel how the words should come out.

But I don’t say this, because it’s difficult to change how we speak, and I know you try.

We’ve been friends forever, and I love you.

But if I could move your lips for you, I would:

      Keep them pointed in my direction

          Move them apart from each other

                Slow them down

                        Free them from food and fingers

                Match their expression with your eyes

          Let them enjoy rolling around the vowels,

    Playing percussion with the consonants

 

If I could move your lips for you, I would.

But I can’t.

So please tell me – again – what you just said.

                                                                                       – Gael Hannan, 2012

 

Lips At My Pillow

In the soft grey of not-quite-day

His sweet-sour breath pats my cheek in puffs of soundless words.

Drowsy, I pull his 5-year-old mouth to my ear

“Mommy, can I get up now?”

My grunt is taken for a yes, and I feel the vibrations of his feet

Quickly thump-thump-thumping out of the room.

Turning on the pillow I see you with

Eyes closed, and lips smiling at mother and son.

Your lips move.

Answering, I feel my voice in my throat –

“Morning, love.”

You fall back asleep and I watch you,

Your face, your lips, your deep voice so easy to understand.

As I watch your strong silent lips

I remember another dawn when I saw them say

“Let’s get married.”

I made you mouth it again and again

To be sure I understood, to give the right answer.

Your lips – I can read their every nuance, they tell me everything.

When you are about to make a joke

When a kiss is blowing my way

When they tighten in anger

And soften in love.

I can ‘read’ you and our son – this language I know.

But should I lose the last shred of sound

Your voices will remain in my ears.

I will always understand you –

Through your smiles, your eyes, your hands and your arms.

I will always have your touch –

And every dawn I will have

Your lips at my pillow.

                                                      Gael Hannan © 2011

 

Now That I Know

The new baby smiled and cooed and thrived,

and her parents knew she was well.

But when at age two, she didn’t always turn, didn’t always answer,

and started a lifetime of saying “What?,”

her parents knew something was different.

The doctors said,

“It’s her hearing.

      It will worsen.

           It will never get better.

                 No, there’s nothing you can do.

                     Hearing aids won’t help.

                        Have her sit at the front of the class and

                         Make sure she pays attention!

          Oh, and come and see me in a year, and we’ll test her hearing again…

                     and the year after that…

                     and the year after that…”

My parents believed the doctors, and did what they were told.

But now that I know–a lifetime later–about hearing loss,

about living, working, loving with hearing loss,

I know what could have been different then,

and what must be different now.

Now that I know that hearing aids can help,

I cry for the years I spent scrunching my face,

trying to follow, straining to understand,

for the years of sounds and words that were off my radar.

 

Now that I know how delicious the sounds of speech are,

I regret not hearing the nuances of the voices of my past.

Now that I know that my own speech was slurred and blurred,

that I chopped off the endings of words because

I didn’t know they were supposed to be there,

I wish that someone had helped my parents to help me to enunciate.

With a hearing aid, I would have heard myself.

 

And  now that I know that most of the technology I now embrace

was only dreamed of then,

My bitter regrets soften, and I am grateful

for dreams that have been made real.

 

But now that I have learned that all the technology in the world

cannot completely banish the hurt, confusion, fear, and anger

that come with hearing loss,

I can start to change my memories of pain

into the sharing of experiences.

 

Because now I know that by meeting even one other person

who would walk with me on my highway,

sit with me by the side of the road as I hold my head in my hands,

And then climb with me to the top of the mountain –

The irons will unlock from my feet and the tape

will be removed from my mouth.

Now I know that I must say to someone else,

“I know what you are feeling, because I have hearing loss, too.

Here’s a road you can take – someone showed it to me.

Now, let me walk with you.” 

                                                                      – Gael Hannan 2011

Thank you for all the comments and feedback over the past 12 months; I am grateful to be a member of the HHTM blog team.  Here’s to another interesting year of sharing thoughts and feelings and ideas about our lives with hearing loss.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

13 Comments

  1. Hello Gael
    I’m trying to type this through the tears that your poems brought to my eyes! Now I have to figure out how to share the poem . Guess I’ll be forced to become a twitterer.
    I look forward to your blogs for my dose of inspiration and comfort in knowing that I’m not alone in this challenge we face.
    Your poems were particularily moving today because today we heard that our 4 year old grandson is having trouble hearing once again – worse than going through it myself!

  2. WOW!!! I was blown away you really tell it as it is.. I am deaf and wish normal hearing could take a walk in our shoes :)

  3. Congratulations on your anniversary. Like Denise, I’d missed the last one. Eloquently said. You are gifted in writing. Thank you for sharing and for putting our words out there.

  4. I love your poems, Gael. I can identify with so much that you write. As a late deafened person, your childhood experiences make me want to cry. How fortunate am I that my hearing loss came gradually & later in life.

  5. Thank you, Gael, for such beautiful expressions of emotions. It has been a pleasure to be acquainted with you and to marvel at your courage in confronting hearing loss with a sense of humor. You are an inspiration to me. Thanks
    Jess

  6. Hi Gael: You have traveled the journey that many of us have trod. To be able to put it into words such as you have is indeed a talent. Thankyou!
    Joan

  7. I remember when I first got my hearing aids. I had been in denial for so long. My hearing loss was found when I was in grade school and I did the yearly test as well and watched my hearing loss get worse and worse. They told my parents I would eventually need hearing aids, but I never was able to afford them until I was an adult and my hearing loss was beginning to affect my job. I heard so many things that I never heard before. The sound of my feet walking across the floor, cicadas and katydids singing in the treetops. I don’t know what I would do without them.

  8. Wow! That is such beautiful work! I need to start reading your material more regularly, Gael. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your talents. Happy Anniversary!

  9. Yes and I am right on that road with you. We will climb to the highest mountains to hear the wind blow. Will we hit some gulleys yes, but we will climb right out of them and keep going and keep learning and pass that information to others who are looking to climb the same mountains. Thank you so much for all the heartfelt words. (some painful) But very true and you are reaping all the benefits you have sown as God has led you down this path in wisdom.

  10. I remember (and loved) the first two, but somehow missed the last. I loved it! Perfectly and beautifully illustrates what advocacy is all about at the end. I forget how talented a poet you are, for a good writer does not mean one can write poems. You can do both. I’m so glad we reap the benefits of both!

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